Fourth dimension of networking – Concept applied (Part 2)

Recently, I defined a way to examine value in my professional networks, introducing the concept of Fourth dimension networking.

To better quantify and qualify this value, I defined ways to measure ‘return’ on my networking ‘investment’. I looked at what I received, and what I gave in my networking activity.

Quantifying the fundamentals of networking activity

As I networked, I kept records of the following basic data:

  1. No. of individual or group encounters had
  2. No. of people in my network (Source: LinkedIn contacts, Twitter followers, blog followers, and Contacts database)
  3. No. of people who joined my network in a period of time (I typically only retain 3D connections, i.e. people I have met face-to-face and shared an experience with)

NB: ‘Encounters’ were intentional face-to-face contact, and did not include incidental meetings in coffee shops, co-working spaces or train stations. Some individuals were repeat encounters.

I summarised this data for specific time periods to give me a quick snapshot of how much networking I had been doing:

  1. No. of encounters (From 1 Jan – 30 Sep 2012) = 277
    1. Individuals = 205
    2. Groups/events = 72
  2. Increase in my LinkedIn contacts (From 1 Jan – 30 Sep 2012) = 180
  3. No. of people in my network (As at 30 Sep 2012) = Approx 600
    1. LinkedIn = 408
    2. Contacts database (of people not in LinkedIn) = 54
    3. Twitter = 127
    4. RHX Thinking Blog = 9

NB: Twitter and Blog followers overlap with LinkedIn contacts

4D networking criteria list

Now I knew something about the quantity of my networking activity, I still lacked a sense of the quality of what this activity had returned to me. Enter the 4D networking criteria, where a rating is assigned to a person for the networking activity they have done.

WARNING! These are activities (and the order) are for what I value in/from networking. You are invited to define your own list.

ANOTHER WARNING! This list is written in 1st-person for easy reading. I run a risk that the reader perceives this as self-centric. I have some discomfort in taking the perspective about ‘what I received’ as I believe networking is about serving others; however I have more comprehensive data from which to draw upon regarding my ‘received’ experience.

#1  Created opportunities to catch-up with me in person
#2  Suggested a relevant reading, podcast, event, group, role, contact to me; shared knowledge or insights
#3  Actively encouraged, affirmed or validated me in a contextually relevant way
#4  Mentioned, commented or liked a post of mine or included me in a post
#5  Endorsed or recommended me
#6  Introduced me to someone else because I asked
#7  Introduced me to someone else of their own volition
#8  Invited me to be part of a collaboration, strategic alliance or lead participant in event
#9  Asked how to help me and acted on the answer
#10 Offered me work opportunities/referred me to work opportunities

I reflected on networking activity (of which I had been a recipient) for the period 1 Jan – 30 Sep 2012, making a shortlist of people who rated as 4D networkers. I worked through the shortlist assigning each individual a rating. Where an individual got multiple ratings, I assigned the value of the highest rated activity.

HelpingOthersThe results:
From a network of approx 600 people, 16 % (i.e. 92 people) engaged me in 4D activities from 1 Jan – 30 Sep 2012.
Of those 92 people (i.e. 4D-network connections):
18 % rated #1-#3
36 % rated #4-#5
28 % rated #6-#8
7 % rated #9
11 % rated #10

I also noted where I first met a 4D contact to determine which groups or events produced valuable connections. Interestingly, very few higher rating contacts (i.e. 8-10) were first established at professional groups or events. Many higher rating contacts were initially made when working together. It seems contacts with whom I’ve had a deeper work experience are more likely to result in further collaboration.

Helen’s 4D networking under the spotlight

The 4D networking examination above was done retrospectively, coming up with list after activities were preformed and not before. It turned out to be easier to specifically recall what I have received, than what I gave.

To get data for my networking activity, I examined a portion of my email correspondence to aid my recall. While I couldn’t create the same detailed summary, I found evidence that I had done all the activities in the list multiple times. From anecdotal feedback, I know what I have done has been appreciated by others, and in some cases inspired them to do the same for others in their network.

What to conclude?

My business partner (he’s a numbers person) looks at the figures of 277 encounters resulting in 23 offers of collaboration/strategic alliance (#8) or work (#10), and calculates that 8% of those encounters were ‘worthwhile’ in cool business terms. In the current economic climate that hasn’t translated into exciting revenue figures.

Networking doesn’t always have obvious returns but that’s not a reason not to do it. It can be resource intensive work, so I recognise I must invest time and energy resources prudently. Knowing what activities are worth doing allows me to better prepare and conduct myself. (More on this to come in the Part 3 blog post on 4D networking)

I invest with faith: My networking actions are seeds sown that are not guaranteed to germinate. Nevertheless, I believe that generous thoughtful actions, though small, cultivate a sharing and caring network culture.

I trust that doing 4D networking activity inspires others to act. Let me know if you are so inspired.

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX GroupHelen likes to experiment and create conceptual frameworks to use in making sense of human activity. She thinks critically about knowledge work and how to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change, learning and knowing so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.

Image credit: stock.xchng

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